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Obama In Poland For NATO Summit

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

President Obama has now spoken out about the violence in Dallas. He's in Warsaw, Poland, attending the final NATO summit of his presidency. This is what he said this morning.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH, PRESIDENT OBAMA)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We will learn more, undoubtedly, about their twisted motivations. But let's be clear, there's no possible justification for these kinds of attacks or any violence against law enforcement.

MARTIN: NPR's Michele is in Warsaw for the NATO summit. Michele, obviously the president is there for these meetings with a global agenda, but his attention has clearly has been pulled back to the violence that's happening here in the U.S. What more can you tell us about his response to what's happened in Dallas?

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Well, he said, like most Americans, he was horrified by the news. He says he's being updated throughout the day here. He also spoke with the mayor of Dallas to convey condolences. At the moment, though, White House officials tell me that there are no plans to cut short the trip. The summit here in Poland, as you say, has a full agenda, and it's today and tomorrow.

MARTIN: Big stuff on this agenda. NATO is taking up issues ranging from a possible deal to manage Russian aggression, not to mention the continuing war in Afghanistan, the threat of terrorism and the political bombshell of Britain's impending exit from the U - from the EU. That issue in particular I imagine has given a political tone to this military alliance summit.

KELEMEN: It has. President Obama is calling this the most important moment for the Transatlantic Alliance since the end of the Cold War with so much on his plate. And as for the British vote, Brexit, his first meeting here was actually with EU officials. And he came out saying that while Brexit is creating uncertainty, he's confident that the U.K. and the European Union are going to work together in a pragmatic way to negotiate a smooth transition.

But, you know, Rachel, it really does change the diplomatic landscape for the U.S. especially. Washington has always counted on Britain as a key partner within these European institutions. So the U.S. is nervous despite what president Obama said today so confidently.

MARTIN: NATO's entire reason for being was to be a counterweight against what was then the Soviet Union, now Russia. So what is the alliance - how is the alliance thinking of Russia right now?

KELEMEN: Well, President Obama announced today that the U.S. is sending a battalion of a thousand troops to Poland. NATO is also sending battalions to the Baltic states - Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania. And all that is a clear message to Russia, you know, beefing up the eastern flank, as they say.

At the same time, NATO secretary general says no one wants a new Cold War. He says NATO wants a constructive dialogue with Russia. Military officials here are nervous, not just about Russia's aggression in Ukraine, but also about the fact that Russian jets have been testing NATO defenses. They fly around the Baltics without their transponders on. So clearly, they need to find a way to better communicate.

MARTIN: I understand, Michele, you were traveling with Secretary of State John Kerry this week in Ukraine. I mean, speaking of Russian aggression, this is an issue that some say has really unified NATO in some way, that every few years someone will say, you know, bureaucrats in the international sphere in particular will say, is NATO worth it anymore? What are you sensing in this summit about how cohesive NATO feels, especially in relationship to what feels like a greater Russian threat?

KELEMEN: Well, President Obama even made the case today that the Europeans need to stay unified on this, keep sanctions in place on Russia to make sure that Russia implements its part of a peace deal on Ukraine. That means removing heavy weapons out of the East, allowing in international monitors.

So far U.S. officials, Kerry himself have said that Ukraine is making compromises, doing its part to implement this peace deal, but can't keep making those concessions without security, that those two things need to go hand-in-hand. The Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, is going to have meetings here and is clearly counting on U.S. support. The U.S. is trying to keep up the pressure on the Europeans to hang tough with Russia.

MARTIN: NPR's, Michele Kelemen, reporting from Warsaw. Thanks so much, Michele.

KELEMEN: Thank you, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.